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My Take: Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you
The most compelling evidence for evolution comes from the study of genes.
April 10th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

My Take: Jesus would believe in evolution and so should you

Editor's Note: Karl W. Giberson, Ph.D., is vice president of The BioLogos Foundation and is the author or coauthor of seven books, including The Language of Science and Faith.

By Karl W. Giberson, Special to CNN

Jesus once famously said, “I am the Truth.”

Christianity at its best embodies this provocative idea and has long been committed to preserving, expanding and sharing truth. Most of the great universities of the world were founded by Christians committed to the truth—in all its forms—and to training new generations to carry it forward.

When science began in the 17th century, Christians eagerly applied the new knowledge to alleviate suffering and improve living conditions.

But when it comes to the truth of evolution, many Christians feel compelled to look the other way. They hold on to a particular interpretation of an ancient story in Genesis that they have fashioned into a modern account of origins - a story that began as an oral tradition for a wandering tribe of Jews thousands of years ago.

This is the view on display in a $27 million dollar Creation Museum in Kentucky. It inspired the Institute for Creation Research, which purports to offer scientific support for creationism.

And it’s hardly a fringe view. A 2010 Gallup poll indicated that 4 in 10 Americans think that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” (http://www.gallup.com/poll/145286/four-americans-believe-strict-creationism.aspx)

While Genesis contains wonderful insights into the relationship between God and the creation, it simply does not contain scientific ideas about the origin of the universe, the age of the earth or the development of life.

For more than two centuries, careful scientific research, much of it done by Christians, has demonstrated clearly that the earth is billions years old, not mere thousands, as many creationists argue. We now know that the human race began millions of years ago in Africa - not thousands of years ago in the Middle East, as the story in Genesis suggests.

And all life forms are related to each other though evolution. These are important truths that science has discovered through careful research. They are not “opinions” that can be set aside if you don’t like them.

Anyone who values truth must take these ideas seriously, for they have been established as true beyond any reasonable doubt.

There is much evidence for evolution. The most compelling comes from the study of genes, especially now that the Human Genome Project has been completed and the genomes of many other species being constantly mapped.

In particular, humans share an unfortunate “broken gene” with many other primates, including chimpanzees, orangutans, and macaques. This gene, which works fine in most mammals, enables the production of Vitamin C. Species with broken versions of the gene can’t make Vitamin C and must get it from foods like oranges and lemons.

Thousands of hapless sailors died painful deaths scurvy during the age of exploration because their “Vitamin C” gene was broken.

How can different species have identical broken genes? The only reasonable explanation is that they inherited it from a common ancestor.

Not surprisingly, evolution since the time of Darwin has claimed that humans, orangutans, chimpanzees, and macaques evolved recently from a common ancestor. The new evidence from genetics corroborates this.

Such evidence proves common ancestry with a level of certainty comparable to the evidence that the earth goes around the sun.

This is but one of many, many evidences that support the truth of evolution - that make it a “sacred fact” that Christians must embrace in the name of truth. And they should embrace this truth with enthusiasm, for this is the world that God created.

Christians must come to welcome - rather than fear - the ideas of evolution. Truths about Nature are sacred, for they speak of our Creator. Such truths constitute “God’s second book” for Christians to read alongside the Bible.

In the 17th century, Galileo used the metaphor of the “two books” to help Christians of his generation understand the sacred truth that the earth moves about the sun. “The Bible,” he liked to say, “tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens ago.”

To understand how the heavens go we must read the book of Nature, not the Bible.

The Book of nature reveals the truth that God created the world through gradual processes over billions of years, rather than over the course of six days, as many creationists believe.

Evolution does not contradict the Bible unless you force an unreasonable interpretation on that ancient book.

To suppose, as the so-called young earth creationists do, that God dictated modern scientific ideas to ancient and uncomprehending scribes is to distort the biblical message beyond recognition. Modern science was not in the worldview of the biblical authors and it is not in the Bible.

Science is not a sinister enterprise aimed at destroying faith. It’s an honest exploration of the wonderful world that God created.

We are often asked to think about what Jesus would do, if he lived among us today. Who would Jesus vote for? What car would he drive?

To these questions we should add “What would Jesus believe about origins?”

And the answer? Jesus would believe evolution, of course. He cares for the Truth.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Karl W. Giberson.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Bible • Christianity • Culture & Science • Culture wars • Opinion • Science

soundoff (3,562 Responses)
  1. Brian

    "Most of the great universities of the world were founded by Christians".................................

    That was during the Dark Ages when everything, including education was controlled by the Church. Today we call this totalitarianism. Fortunately we are no longer in the Dark Ages.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  2. kishore

    so nature has access to this big "memory" chip where it can store information pertaining to the past and a processor to process the past and do some fine a$$ selections in real time? nature must be a computer then.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Jarod47

      It seems that you do't know what a computer is.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • kishore

      good one jarod47. tell it to your customers the next time you ask them paper or plastic.

      April 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  3. Jack

    What's with this silly nonsensical cr*p that Christians keep asking each other every once in a while ?? "What would Jesus do.. ??" Would he believe in evolution ? Would he shop at Walmart ?? Would he drive a Hummer ?? Would he approve of women pole dancing.. and so on..

    April 10, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  4. TheOracle8191

    I hope this man comes to understand what Jesus really meant when he said he was the truth. He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life and NO ONE comes to the Father except through me." The Truth is that God is the one and only loving creator of everything in existence, Jesus Christ is his humble son who died for our sins and wickedness and rose from the dead to show everyone that the power and mercy of God overcomes all, even death; that if you believe in him and what he did, you will have eternal life. As for evolution, some evidence says yes it's true, some says it doesn't, (i'm still on the fence about it), but don't try to twist Christ's words to validate your opinion.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  5. kishore

    what is nature? how is it "selecting"? on what basis?

    April 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Jarod47

      The selection is like this:
      If you don't have what is needed, you may not live long.
      If you have what is needed, you may have offspring which carry your genes.
      So they also have what is needed.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • kishore

      at what point in one's life is it decided (what is needed and what is not needed)? where exactly is that information stored other than the DNA, for DNA to carry it forward?

      do you even know what information is?

      April 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  6. Babs

    It would be useful, in an article like this, to explain the divergent camps. There are the young earth believers, there are the day-age believers (with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, therefore when God created 'days' they were actually thousands of years, allowing for the science to fit with the Biblical account), there are many other views that sincere Christians have regarding the age of these issues.

    And it is possible to have these differing views about creation, because salvation is not contingent upon them. One can believe varying things about the creation and still have a solid soteriology and be saved.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  7. Splovengates

    Jesus made the' heaven, earth, the sea, and all that is in them' He also created science. But science without the study of the Bible is fruitless, and confusing and all the other words you can use to describe this 'science so called'. Here's a principle to use when studying science. With Jesus, the NATURAL COOPERATES WITH THE SUPERNATURAL. 'Nuff said.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  8. Joshua

    Jesus upheld genesis as an authoritative source regarding the origins of mankind.

    He said and I quote: "have you not heard that in the beginning He (God) made them male and female?" – This is a quotation from genesis in which it is recorded that God created woman from the rib of man ... does that fit the evolution story? If not, then apparently Jesus didn't believe in it.

    Jesus Himself is the God of Genesis who walked in the garden in the cool of the day ... it would be impossible for Him to deny how He created mankind male and female in favor of a modern fantasy.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  9. Dan, TX

    And I am not against religion or belief in God. But any religion or God that requires you to deny Science as a way of understanding the world is a false religion and a false God. That is not to say religion and God can't provide you with another way of understanding the world, but that alternative can't not conflict with science. It's ok to argue that Science is limited and some things can't be proven (you can't prove or disprove that a rose is beautiful, even though you can clearly know they are the first time that you see one – even if you can explain why people think roses are beautiful, that still doesn't prove a rose inherently without human subjectivity is beautiful unless you define beauty in absolute terms, which I think is a debatable concept).

    April 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  10. John C.

    We already know how Yahshua (Jesus) viewed the issue of man's beginning.

    MarK 10:2-9 And the Pharisees came to him, and asked him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? tempting him.
    And he answered and said unto them, What did Moses command you?
    And they said, Moses suffered to write a bill of divorcement, and to put her away.
    And Jesus answered and said unto them, For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept.
    But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
    For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife;
    And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
    What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

    Not only is Messiah Yahshua quoting Genesis showing his belief in its teaching, but he is affirming the Almighty's hand in all creation as well as man's creation. They were created male and female. Man did not evolve from a monkey to a man and then decide to get married.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  11. Brian McKinley

    Well, he created the process of evolution so ya, of course he does.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  12. kishore

    evolution and karma are two bull twaddle "theories" that supposedly act on populations where nature is this big arbiter. nobody knows the nature of this nature. just by saying "spontanoeus" and "random" a bunch of times doesn't make it the Truth. fill the gaps (huge, grand canyon size gaps) in your theory before spouting it as fact. by the way, i am not a creationist but for some reason darwinists seem to think that you are either a darwinist or a creationist.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Rich

      Do you also consider gravity and the helio-centric solar system "just theories"? Because that's what they are in scientific terminology.

      In common parlance gravity, the sun-centered solar system and evolution are fact. Evolution has happened, evolution does happen, evolution will continue to happen.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • kishore

      whose parlance is that?!!!

      gravity is least understood in case you don't know. there is no carrier particle (graviton) that is found yet.

      bad example sir.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Fred

      Actually, gravity is a good example. Most people (including those who do not believe in evolution) accept gravity as a fact. The theories of gravity are well formed, but yet more controversial and debated than that of evolution. I've never heard a single creationist take issue with the teaching of the theory of gravity in schools is an issue, or claim what we see as gravity is just the hand of god working constantly to move or suspend objects. Yet, the implications aren't that different that the controversy surrounding evolution.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • IDSWIzzard

      Nope, prefer the explanation of flying. The art of throwing yourself at the ground and missing.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  13. 4moon

    silly rabbit, Jesus is the only man to ever walk the earth that knows how life really originated.....

    April 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Jarod47

      Please note that evolution is about how species originated, not how life originated.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • James

      Thats true, people back then had the thought of evolution that things came to be by themselves through years and years. Yet none of Jesus' followers asked him if evolution is true or if he believes in evolution.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  14. Ferdinand of Aragon

    MOHAMAD WOULD HAVE BEHEADED DARWIN!

    April 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  15. KG

    The autor's logic is flawed. Inheritance of a fatal genetic mutation is an argument AGAINST evolution. Why would natural selection favor a defective gene that results in a fatal deficiency? The original mutant should have died. Why would their progeny have an advantage that would result in all primates having the defective gene? It may have conferred some other advantage, but having this defect is not an argument for evolution.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Kyle

      Wow you are an idiot. Genetic changes do not have to be beneficial. They can simply be neutral. If an animal develops a diet that contains something like vitamin C, then a mutation to that gene would have no effect on the species at all until it attempted to try and change its diet. People like you are either innocently ignorant of evolution, or are intellectually dishonest. Either would be frowned upon by christ.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • ktisis

      Absolutely. The blindness of those committed to Darwinian naturalism is astounding. Defects are the result of the fall, of de-evolution, if you will, not of upward-and-onward evolution. To believe that DNA, which has error-correction routines built in (some studies reveal to the order of only 1 mistake in 100,000,000 copies) can change from an amoeba (or a shrew like mammal) into a scientist studying evolution, requires more faith than this student of science and history can muster. Preposterous. To make a big deal about sharing a "broken" gene with other primates, consider that humans are about 50% identical to bananas in DNA. Think about it, there are only 1 of 4 nucleotides that can occupy any spot in the genetic sequence, therefore, by mere probabilistic mathematics you could predict that all life is about 25% similar in DNA. Similarities do not prove or even imply evolution by common descent, rather common design or common design principles.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • Fred

      Genetic traits are often related to one another. For example, red hair and pale skin. But, not all people with pale skin have red hair. It is totally possible that a particular trait may be associated with another trait that is fatal, but not always. In other words, the mutant/fatal trait never gets removed from the population unless the primary trait(s) it is associated with does, but this won't happen if the primary trait(s) do not interfere with reproduction.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • James

      God created us from all the substance in the Earth that means our DNA with everything else has to be alike but doesnt mean we evolved

      April 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Suzie

      James so how do you explain all the various, colors, shapes and sizes of humanity? We had to evolve into others types of beings otherwise we should all be similar in looks to Adam and Eve, but we're not.

      April 11, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • James

      God loves variety and in the DNA got gave humans a variety of genes.

      April 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  16. Ferdinand of Aragon

    The beauty about this debate is that Muslims kept out because their god created man from everything ranging from clot of blood, dust and sperm whch makes their version of creation crazier than Christians'

    April 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm |
  17. DnR

    Evolution, or natural selection, isn't a theory, it's observable in everyday life, from peppered moths to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Anna2, I hope you never get MRSA, because if you don't believe in natural selection, I think it would be quite hypocritical of you to take vancomycin instead of methicillin.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • kishore

      how do you make the jump from bacteria to intelligent human species?

      April 10, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Anna2

      DnR, what the bacteria does is not evolution, but learning. If you hit me in the head, I will hit you back or avoid you. Doesn't mean I have evolved. I have changed my behavior to avoid pain. And I will probably teach my kids to avoid you, too, so they will learn from me. Why do you think a bacteria is not capable of learning?

      April 10, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Daniel

      No, bacteria do actually mutate and evolve, and that is how they become resistant to antibiotics. There are actual mutations to their DNA that allows them to resist antibiotics. They pass this DNA on to others and to their offspring. This is the very basis of evolution. They do not have brains or neurons so they do not learn. It is genetic mutation and natural selection that allows them to do this.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • IDSWIzzard

      Anna2, why do you think it is? Bacteria has to adapt. You can't "learn" to be resistant to something that attacks you. Can you learn to be resistant to bullets? Or learn to be resistant to an atomic explosion? Nope, as smart as a human might be, they would have to adapt (dna change to have stronger skin, etc.), not learn.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Anna2

      We have the inherent ability to recoil from a hot surface or close our eyes quickly to avoid injury. Why can't that bacteria have the same quality that makes it avoid certain chemicals? BTW, I know it sounds crazy, but just because it is tiny, doesn't mean it has no consciousness. Look how tiny we are compared to the Universe. Would a giant who looks at us through a microscope understand why we are doing something or would assume that we have intelligence?

      April 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Anna2

      No answers? See, this is what I don't like about scientists. The minute you ask a logical question they can't answer they ignore you.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Anna2

      Magnets? How do they work?

      April 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • Suzie

      Anna2 Bacteria have been designed to be adaptable which is why they wouldn't avoid the chemicals. Their surrounding layers and the genetic information for these and other structures associated with a bacterium are capable of alteration. Some alterations are reversible, disappearing when the particular pressure is lifted. Other alterations are maintained and can even be passed on to succeeding generations of bacteria. I love these little guys they are amazing!

      April 11, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Suzie

      Anna what type of magnets are you talking about or do you not even realize there is a difference?

      April 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  18. Unelievable

    Anna2~

    Please CANCEL your MENSA Membership. According to your questions, you no longer qualify.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  19. St. Francis of Asis

    Just because I am Christian does not mean I can not believe in Evolution. This sentiment was made up by men not by Jesus. Jesus would be all for Evolution. He would not be afraid of the truth. He would tell everyone that the Bible does not need to be taken literally. No one can prove that God and Jesus aren't for Evolution. It is only fearful, ignorant, or the unenlightened that prefer to live in the dark ages.

    Not having the intellect to recognize that MEN (not Jesus) misinterpreted Genesis is not anti-Christian.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • albert

      Sorry to say , but you are not a christian. Christians not only believe in Christ, but they follow his teachings as well. If Jesus believe in evolution, he would have taught about it. Instead, he gave his Father the credit for creating all things. Don't fool yourself, you do not follow the Christ.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • James

      during jesus' time there were people who tried to answer life's questions through evolution; evolution is not a new thing. Throughout history man tried to be God by trying to have an explanation for everything but God always said I am the explanation, I created everything perfect and it does not need to evolve. He said he created man, he doesnt say man came from an ape he is a different specie. Jesus/God spoke out throughout History and the Bible on the things they love and the things they hate. Never in History has God said that he created bacteria to turn into an animal and an ape to turn into a human never. Adam named all animals that means that no new animals were to come after that since God had him name all of them.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  20. Dan, TX

    Denying that evolution is a fact explaining the variation of life on earth is simply a rejection of science. When 40% of America apparently rejects science as a way of knowing things, we hand over technological innovation to those cultures that embrace science and technology. Many people argue that because of Islamic extremism, some Muslim countries have societies stuck in the past Those 40% of Americans who prefer ignorance to scientific knowledge truly want America to be stuck in the 19th Century. I really am beginning to believe China will dominate as the world's next superpower – not because of economics, but because they believe in science and are now investing heavily in supporting science. It is time for the brightest Americans to pack up and move to the land of opportunity and innovation, the new frontier, the wild west, a place where the best and brightest can succeed, that looks increasingly to be China rather than America. Of course, the Christians will rather use nukes against the atheist Chinese than let them become the leading superpower because that is what God would want.

    April 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • Yeta

      Beware folks, it seems CNN and Huff post have the anti-Christ working for them. They're constantly writing articles that have people casting doubt on their faith.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • James

      i dont get it because when God created the earth in the Bible there was not explosion and no sun. Earth was the first planet created. But you think that God is for evolutuion but that contradicts the beginning. and plus God when he created everything he said it was perfect which means man cannot evolve. also genetics proves evolutuion wrong because a specie cannot go outside of his dna. when a seed turns into a crop or a baby turns into an adult does this mean that thats what evolution is about if that is then its true but you guys think it happens over billions of year. did you know before scientist went to the moon they thought the moon was billions years old and thought it had about 50ft of sand but turns out it only had like an inch which means it wasnt old.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • James

      and the christians that say evolutuion is true they are christians that make the Bible their own they choose words they like and others they dont. They make God their own God instead of the God of the Bible

      April 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • albert

      Your viewpoint is also very narrow minded. Your logic can easily be used against your belief

      "Denying that God is a fact explaining the variation of life on earth is simply a rejection of God."

      Science cannot 100% prove evolution that same way that they cannot 100% prove that God does not exist.

      If you have ever studied the laws of nature, you would have to conclude that there is a creator. The laws of the universe are perfect. For example, humans can literally navigate and set their clocks by the laws of the universe. Yet take a computer, something created by man. Wouldn't you think it odd if someone thought it appear by chance? Look at the balance in nature, happened by chance? the variety in animals, colors, the variety of food. The perfect distance of the sun from the earth. All by chance? These are simple examples. But to deny that someone created all these things is to show the arrogance of science. Again, science cannot disprove the existence of God.

      Do not confuse the false and misinterpretation of the Bible with God. Easter, Christmas, hellfire, these are all man made myths. The perfect order of the universe, now THAT is God.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • James

      God's order and ways never change but man's laws and ways change. For example the books on evolution have been changing over and over and over the books take out things from previous book and its constantly changing that means its wrong. God's way never changes and that why its true. But since the science of evolution is changing God cannot be a part of that.

      April 10, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • James

      If people evolved from apes that means God did not create man so that means God didnt create much. By now everything is evolved and that means that God didn't create anything because it evolved. Since Evolution is given credit and not God that means God cannot be for evolution and that definitely means that he is against it.

      April 10, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • John

      I'm a little uncomfortable about the idea of "believing" in science. It's not necessary to "believe" in science. Science is just a method of learning. You don't have to believe in a brownie recipe to wind up with brownies, any more than you have to believe in the scientific method to wind up with electricity or jet propulsion.

      Religion gives us the option to believe or not believe, because it offers assertions that cannot be tested. "Faith" is the choice to believe those assertions despite the lack of evidence. Science never asks this of us. When we fall into the trap of saying we "believe" in science, we run the risk of implying that scientific theories are just another set of assertions we can choose to take on faith or not. However, this is not the case.

      Whether we believe in it or not, knowledge arrived at by science, such as evolution, simply is. The evidence is there; it has been tested in a way that can be repeated with predictable results, and subjected to the scientific method of inquiry. Scientific knowledge always comes with the understanding that new evidence could come to light in the future which could change our understanding. But based on all the available evidence at the time, scientific theories are essentially known facts.

      In conversation, people casually use the word "theory" when they mean "hypothesis," an educated guess that has not yet been tested. However in science there is a difference. So, the "theory" of evolution, in the scientific sense, is not equal to any other half-baked guess or set of assumptions that anyone comes up with. It is a fact, tested and proven.

      April 11, 2011 at 12:38 am |
    • James

      evolution cannot be repeated when has it been repeated. i thought it takes millions of year?

      April 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.